The importance every second represents during an emergency response simply cannot be overstated.
While large urban municipalities have dedicated full-time firefighters on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week, small communities such as Sundre have committed volunteers who do not think twice about dropping what they’re doing to reach the hall when the call for help goes out.
That means before jumping into a fire truck in full gear and rolling out, they must first reach the fire station, typically with their own vehicles.
Last year, fire Chief Marty Butts arranged to have the local department’s members equipped with emergency flashing green lights to help them reach the station as quickly as possible. Although the green lights do not give members authority to speed or run lights and stops signs, the idea is for other motorists to yield the way so volunteer response times can be minimized to the fullest.
Although Butts told the Round Up local motorists have since then largely seemed to comply by accommodating responders who are attempting to reach the hall as quickly as possible, the fire chief said there have been some instances when firefighters were delayed by drivers who failed to pull over.
Such cases could be the result of a motorist simply not noticing the flashing green lights in his or her rear-view mirror, although there is also the possibility that the odd driver does not know or care. So should drivers observe a vehicle coming up from behind with green flashing lights, Butts encourages them to pull over.
“It only takes two seconds to let somebody by,” he said. “Depending on the nature of the call they’re going to, those seconds can turn into minutes and alter the outcome of the call.”
Since the Sundre Fire Department does not deploy any of its apparatus with an incomplete crew, if one member is held up — even if only momentarily — the rest of the crew potentially ends up waiting as well, he said.
“That little delay might not seem like much, but it’s delaying the whole truck.”
The flashing green emergency lights are a useful tool that help to shave precious moments off of response times, which is especially important for critical calls such as heart attacks, structure fires and motor vehicle collisions, he said.
There are signs at each entrance to Sundre that give drivers notice, and the chief expressed his gratitude for everyone who has accommodated his volunteer firefighters since the flashing green lights were introduced.
“And the people who are having the worst day of their life will appreciate it too.”
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— Ducatel is the Round Up’s editor